Dying without a will in California can result a person’s estate being distributed contrary to their wishes. In the worst case scenario, the estate could end up with the State of California. If your loved one recently passed away without a will, the estate will be settled under the laws of intestate succession in California. Most likely, you will need help probating the estate. Contact A People’s Choice for professional, low cost legal assistance. We can help you administer the estate of a decedent who died without a will without having to hire an expensive attorney. Read on to learn more about the laws of intestate succession in California.
What is Intestate Succession in California?
Intestate succession in California occurs when a person dies without a will. Under California intestate succession laws, the decedent’s heirs entitled to receive a portion of the estate depend on whether they are next of kin. For example, as next of kin, the decedent’s surviving spouse and children will inherit his/her separate property.
The following types of property do not pass through intestate succession:
1. The decedent’s property held in a living trust
2. Life insurance proceeds with named beneficiary
3. Retirement account funds including IRA and 401(k) with named beneficiary
4. Payable-on-death bank accounts
5. Property the decedent owned in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship
Heirs At Law Under California Intestate Succession Laws
An heir at law is a person who is legally entitled to receive property of another upon that person’s death. Who is considered a decedent’s “heir at law” is determined by California’s intestacy laws. Heirs will inherit the decedent’s property based on rules of descent and distribution. If the decedent is not married or in a registered domestic partnership at death, the following heirs will have first preference, in this order:
1. Children – The decedent’s estate will be divided equally among his/her children.
2. Parents – The decedent’s estate will be divided equally among his/her parents if he/she did not have any children or a surviving spouse.
3. Siblings – If the decedent is not survived by any children, spouse, or his/her parents, his/her siblings will receive an equal part of the estate.
4. Grandparents – If the decedent is not survived by any children, spouse, or siblings, his/her estate will pass to his/her grandparents.
If the decedent is married, his/her share of community property will pass to his/her surviving spouse. Under California’s intestate succession laws, if the decedent did not leave any surviving issue, parent, brother, sister, or issue of a deceased brother or sister, the spouse will inherit 100% of the decedent’s separate property. If the decedent had surviving children, the surviving spouse will only inherit a portion of the decedent’s separate property, with the remaining portion shared between the children. Refer to Probate Code 6401(c) for other scenarios. If the decedent is legally separated at the time of his/her death, his/her surviving spouse will not be entitled to his/her property.
If the decedent has no surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts or uncles, nieces or nephews, cousins, etc, the property will escheat to the State of California. This rarely occurs.
In addition, to inherit any property under California’s intestate succession laws, a person must outlive the decedent by 120 hours. Half-siblings all inherit their proportional share despite whether the decedent may have a different father or mother.
If your loved one passed away without a will, the laws of intestate succession in California will direct how the estate is distributed among the heirs of the decedent. Probating an estate without a will does not have to be expensive and can easily be accomplished without hiring an expensive lawyer. Contact A People’s Choice to learn more about how we can probate your loved one’s estate.